Happy Easter! Here’s a Mongolian Hare…

“Tolai Hare, Mongolia” oil 16×12″ (price on request)

The tolai hare is the only rabbit/hare species found in Mongolia. They’re usually seen in rocky or semi-desert areas. My subject was one that I saw one evening at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. I was positioned up in the rocks above the spring-fed stream waiting for argali sheep to show up when this hare hopped out from behind some rocks into plain view. What made it even better was there was a hoopoe perched on a rock not far away. Both species are very skittish and bolt at any movement. Here’s a couple of photos of hares I’ve seen during my trips to Mongolia.

Also at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu. You have to see them before they see you to have any chance of getting photos. Sometimes they wait until you’re so close that you’ve almost stepped on them and then they explode from right at your feet, which really boosts one’s heart rate!

During the 2016 WildArt Mongolia Expedition we were enroute to the Great Gobi A Strictly Protected Area to explore critically endangered Gobi bear habitat (saw tracks and scat but no bears, not surprising when the total population is currently estimated to be 40 of them). The Fergon van that carried our equipment was stopped by a blocked fuel line. We all got out of the SUV and poked around while that was attended to. I spotted this tolai hare right away and got some decent photos before it bounded off.

Do You Know Someone Who Wants A Horse for Christmas?

There’s still *time to get this lovely, and low maintenance, horse for someone special! “Scratch This Itch” is an original 10×12″ oil on canvasboard, available now in my Etsy shop. I saw this foal in Mongolia some years ago. He had to work on the coordination a bit but he finally got that spot. He’s waiting for you here along with a variety of other original, affordable oil paintings.
(*Delivery in continental US only, order by Dec. 17; subject to prior sale)

Recent Pen And Ink Work

“Little Owl, Mongolia” 6×4″ pen and ink on paper

As I did last year, I’ve donated two pen and ink originals for the Explorers Club Annual Dinner auction. This year I decided to do birds that I’ve watched and photographed in Mongolia.
I’ve seen little owls a number of times in a variety of locations…perched on a herder’s storage box near the shore of Orog Nuur, a remote lake in the Gobi, peeking out from behind a rock at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve and a number of them sitting out by their burrows, which they’d dug into the ruined ramparts of an ancient Turkic settlement, Khar Balgas. Unlike the owls most of us are familiar with in every case it was full daylight.

“Hoopoe, Mongolia” 6×4″ pen and ink on paper

Hoopoes have a very large range…from Mongolia to Africa to Europe. I have found them to be one of the most challenging birds to get decent photos of. It’s almost like they tease you, letting you get…almost…there and then flying off to the next tree. But persistence has paid off at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve in the valley where the research camp is located. My subject was one of a family group of three I spotted up on the top of the rocks in the late afternoon. I was able to approach just close enough by working my way towards them behind large rocks at the edge of the valley floor to get a number of photos with my 80-400 lens at maximum range.

Watercolors From My Latest Trip To Mongolia, Part 2. And Horses!

Ikh Nart 1

I go to Ikh Nartiin Chuluu (Ikh Nart, for short) Nature Reserve on every trip to Mongolia. It’s where I went on my very first one in April of 2005 to participate in an Earthwatch Institute-sponsored expedition to assist in research that has been carried out there since the mid-1990s. For the two weeks the team of ten of us were there it never got above 32F/0C (not exactly spring weather on the north coast of California where I live), with almost constant wind. Loved every day of it. As of 2016 I bought my own ger with furnishings and have been given permission by the reserve director, who was one of the argali sheep researchers on the Earthwatch project, to set it up in the reserve. So I’ve known him for a long time and am very grateful for being able to “live” in this very special place for a week or more a year. When I’m not there he has the use of the ger for the reserve’s guests.

This year I was allowed to set up at the research camp, which was very convenient since it’s one of the best places to see wildlife. The caretaker, Ulzii, and I have also known each other since that first trip, so I had a trusted back-up just in case I needed it. Which was good because Ikh Nart had gotten no rain to speak of when I got there and then had three corking good storms come through in five days. I got to watch the land go from brown and parched to green with flowers blooming. I also watched the dry streambed turn into quite a “raging” torrent for an hour or so. Many photos and video, so that will be the topic of a future post and a YouTube video.

I did my usual tramping about wildlife watching, also sketching and painting. I still need to scan my journal, which I do a lot of drawing in, but here are my watercolors.

Ikh Nart 2
The research camp valley’s west end where it opens out onto the steppe. I’ve always loved this view. Watercolor 9×12″ on Arches 140lb.cold press block

Ikh nart 7
Ikh Nart view west to the steppes. Watercolor 9×12″ 140lb. Arches cold press block

Ikh Nart 5
Ikh Nart rocks. Watercolor 8×8″ Waterford 140lb. cold press


I was out hiking the south edge of the valley and spotted this dramatic overhang. Found some nice flat rocks to sit on and lay out my paints. Looked up and there was an animal standing under it looking at me. Grabbed some quick photos. Then it lay down with just its head showing. Before I finished the painting it left, so I added it from memory. But, when I got back to camp and downloaded the day’s images onto my MacBook Pro I saw that it hadn’t been an ibex, but was instead a female gazelle! Twelve trips to Ikh Nart over the years and this was the first time I’d seen a gazelle in this part of the reserve. But for the painting, an ibex she will remain.

Ikh Nart 3
Looking back up the valley to the research camp. Watercolor 8×8″ Waterford 140lb. cold press

Ikh Nart 4 (2)
Elm trees. Watercolor 8×8″ 140lb. Waterford cold press

It was getting hot so I left the top of the valley and went back down into it to look for a location with shade. I found it in a clump of old elm trees and did this study, along with the view towards the research camp. When it hasn’t rained a number of species lose all their leaves and look like they’ve died. But add any amount of rain and they seem to almost instantly leaf out again. I was working away totally focused when I heard a noise behind me. I turned and saw this…


It was a “burrrr” and a snort from this herd of domestic Mongol horses who wanted to get to the spring to drink. And I seemed to be in the way. I looked at them. They looked at me. Then the stallion made his decision.

horses 4_wm

horses 2

The herd split and went around me on both sides as I madly snapped as many photos as I could.

horses 3_wm

They rejoined and continued on to the spring. As you can see they were very thin from lack of graze, especially the mares with foals. This was the third dry year in a row. But the storms that came through, I hope, brought enough rain to let them fatten up for the long, very hard Mongolian winter. There are no horses tougher than these, so they’ve got a good chance.

New Painting Debut! “Want To Play?” (Siberian Ibex)

"Want to Play? oil 16x24"
“Want to Play?” oil 16×24″

This is one of thirteen paintings (and just completed), which will be in “Wildlife Art: Field to Studio” a group exhibition at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut from March 24 to May 4.
You can see the rest of the paintings I will have in the exhibition here. All are available for purchase. A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to support individual researchers in Mongolia.

This is from the press release that was sent out to national art publications:

“Seven Signature Members of the Society of Animal Artists will have a groundbreaking group exhibition at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, from March 24 through May 4, 2016. The Flinn is located at 101 West Putnam Avenue on the second floor of the Greenwich Library; regular gallery hours are Monday through Wednesday, Friday & Saturday from 10Am -5PM, Thursday from 10AM-8PM, and Sunday from 1PM-5PM. All are welcome to attend a free reception to meet the artists on Thursday, March 31st, from 6-8 pm, and an informative lecture and demo series will follow April 2nd through the 4th (See Schedule Below).

Despite varied backgrounds, the participating artists are united by the unique theme of the show- their reliance on direct observation of animal subjects in the field. Wildlife Art: Field to Studio acknowledges the overarching importance of field work and how it directly influences studio work by exhibiting examples of both disciplines together. Along with the finished originals, a selection of fieldwork, original drawings, and print reproductions will be available for sale. The Flinn Gallery is sponsored by the Friends of Greenwich Library, and a portion of proceeds from every sale will support their valuable community programming.

The artists, Susan Fox, Sean Murtha, Alison Nicholls, David Rankin, Karryl Salit, Kelly Singleton and Carel Brest van Kempen, find inspiration in the natural world and have honed their skills in the field, sketching and even sculpting, using both traditional plein-air techniques and new digital media. Their work features the wildlife of Mongolia, Africa, the Rocky Mountains, the Himalayas and their own backyards. They paint in oil, acrylic and watercolor, sculpt in bronze and draw in a variety of media, both traditional and digital. Styles range from loose and painterly to highly detailed and from an emphasis on the animals themselves to depictions which include their native habitats. What all the work has in common, whether painting or sculpture, is an accuracy of appearance, behavior, and setting that can only be gained by spending time in the places where their subjects live. The participants in the exhibition are the latest practitioners in a specialized area of animal art that goes back to the 18th century and which includes such familiar artist-explorer-naturalists as John James Audubon, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Carl Rungius, and Charles Tunnicliffe to name a few.

Lectures and Artists Demonstration Series at The Flinn
Saturday, April 2- 11am-12pm- Sketching session with the artists for children ages 9 and up, Flinn Gallery;
2-3 pm- Artist Talk, Flinn Gallery
Monday, April 4- Susan Fox, Sean Murtha, Alison Nicholls, David Rankin, and Karryl Salit will speak about the exhibition at The Explorer’s Club, New York.

Susan Fox- foxstudio.biz; Sean Murtha- seanmurthaart.com Alison Nicholls- artinspiredbyafrica.com;
David Rankin- davidrankinwatercolors.com; Karryl Salit- karryl.com; Kelly Singleton- kellysingleton.com;
Carel Brest van Kempen- cpbrestvankempen.com”


Ikh Nart Argali And Erdenet Naadam! And It’s My 700th Post!


argali on rock

I arrived in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia late at night on June 28, was in town for a day and then took the train down to Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve. I saw quite a few argali and got some great reference photos.

argali ewe and lamb

3 argali running

I returned to Ulaanbaatar (UB) after four days, had one day in town again, then joined a Mongolian friend of mine and her family for the annual Naadam celebration in Erdenet, which is a city to the northwest of UB. I got to see four horse races and learn quite a lot about horse racing culture in Mongolia since my friend’s brother is a race horse owner. It was a terrific look behind the scenes.

Riding out to the starting point

Once ready to go, the horses are ridden out to the starting point, so they will have done the course twice, out at a walk/trot/canter and back at a run. The feature race for adult Mongol horses was a little over 20km. It had been shortened this year since the rains have been slow in coming and the wasn’t as much grass as was wanted and needed.

Race for Mongol horse hybrids

A recent development is crossing Mongol horses with Arabians or American or British thoroughbreds, trying for more speed. These “hybrids” run in their own separate race. Above are four of them approaching the finish line.

2 yr old race

2 yr old finish

There is also a race for two-years olds, which will be their first. The above two photos show the finish of that race. It’s a test to see how they do in a real race. Horses who show promise might be purchased from the breeder on the spot.

The rules governing the jockeys changed a couple of years ago to increase safety. The lower age limit was raised to seven years from five. The boys and girls (not many but there’s usually one or more) are required to wear helmets, knee and elbow pads and to wear shoes. They can still ride bareback, on a pad or in a saddle. Insurance is also required.

Very young horseman

They really do start them early in learning to ride. I saw fathers putting two year olds up on a horse and holding them in place for a minute or two and riding with a bit older child seated in front of them. The young boy in the above photo was perfectly confident, sitting very calmly as he guided his mount.


Unlike American and European racing, the default for Mongol horse racing is geldings. There is one race just for stallions. Mares are not raced since they bear foals and provide milk. This stallion made sure he was between me and his harem. The racing horses are watched much more closely and aren’t allowed the same free range as the working horses. Their training for the naadam begins six weeks before the festival with a carefully calibrated diet and a conditioning routine. The ones picked for racing love, love, love to run and holding them back can be a challenge.

Race horses in training

Here are two horses in the final stage of training. They were finally allowed to run and took off like a shot. The trainer and maybe the owner are in the car carefully observing them. The night before the race the men stay up all night with the horses who will race the next day, feeling the state of their stomach and feeding them at the appropriate time.

Young Jockey

This is the jockey who rode my host’s horses. He’s eight years old and was all business. Never saw him crack a smile.


We stayed at this camp set up by my host just for the naadam races. It was a wonderful site with an almost 360 degree view of the surrounding countryside.

Two cousins watch the sunset

Two of the cousins of the family watching the sun set.

It wouldn’t be a naadam without horse racing and wrestling and we also got to watch the latter. The rules are simple: if any part of your body other than the soles of your feet or the palms of your hands touch the ground, you lose.

Eagle dance

The competition begins with all the wrestlers doing the Eagle Dance in front of a national standard.


It’s all very colorful, from the maikhan (the tents) to the officials to the wrestlers themselves. It’s single elimination all the way through. One loss and done.

Wrestling competition

I also got a tour of the city, known for its enormous copper mine which was established by the Russians back in the 1970s. Everything produced, which also includes molybdenum, goes to Russia.


There is a new Buddha statue which will form the center of a planned development. It’s one of the biggest in Mongolia and is directly across from the copper mine. There was also an ovoo with an unusual wooden bird on the top. I’ve never seen that before.


After four fun and rewarding days we took the overnight train back to Ulaanbaatar. I’m resting up and seeing friends, plus doing a little last-minute shopping because on July 16 I depart for western Mongolia for my third WildArt Mongolia Expedition which has been awarded a Flag from The Explorers Club! Stay tuned!


“A Good Stretch” Accepted Into Major Juried Exhibition “Art and the Animal”! Also, A New Painting Debut!

"A Good Stretch" oil 20x24"
“A Good Stretch” oil 20×24″

I’m very pleased to announce that “A Good Stretch”, 20×24″ oil on canvas, has been accepted into the 55th Annual “Art and the Animal”, the prestigious international juried exhibition of the Society of Animal Artists (I’ve been a member and Signature Member since 2002). The venue for this year is the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History from August 28-October 25. There were 395 submissions from 237 members (the Society has almost 500). One could submit two works, but only would be accepted. It’s extremely competitive and a real honor to have made the cut. (This is my fifth time in the show since I first got in in 2009.)

Ikh Nartiin Chuluu

My subject is a Gobi argali ram, seen above, who I spent a hour with at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature Reserve last year. I climbed up and sat on a rocky slope overlooking the valley where the research camp is located, across a draw from him and in full view. Even did a few sketches. When I got home and went through my photos I realized that he was in three of my argali encounters over the four days I was at the camp. The white area on one horn where the surface layer has broken off (almost certainly from a fight during the rut) makes him easy to recognize. Nice for me because I always want to paint individuals.

Tolai Hare Study

Tolai Hare 12x10" Wolff's Carbon Pencil and Prismacolor pencil on Canson paper
Tolai Hare 12×10″ Wolff’s Carbon Pencil and Prismacolor pencil on Canson paper


Over the past week I’ve finished, photographed and sent in my entries for the two most important animal art juried exhibitions. Whew. It was pretty intense there for a couple of weeks. Now the waiting begins…tick tock tick tock….In the meantime….

I’ve been wanting to do a painting of a tolai hare, the only member of the rabbit family native to Mongolia, for a number of years, but until last year had never gotten good enough reference. They wait either in cover or pressed to the ground, then explode into view, sometimes almost at your feet, and take off. Definitely gets the adrenaline going. I was at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu last year, staying at the research camp, which is at the head of a valley with a spring and stream. A variety of wildlife, both mammals and birds, come to drink there. One evening I was sitting up on the rocks, hoping to catch argali in good light. But what showed up first was this tolai hare! Since I was already in place and not moving, he/she went about their business none the wiser to my presence. And I finally got what I needed. This is a new species for me, so I did this drawing to “learn what they look like”. I enjoy working on toned paper and adding the touches of white.

SOLD! Day 12 of my “12 Days of Drawings” Sale “Argali Ram, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu”

Argali-ramDAY 12 of my “12 Days of Drawings” Sale!
“Argali Ram, Ikh Nartiin Chuluu” graphite on paper, 11×10.5″
And last, but absolutely not least, a magnificent argali ram I saw at Ikh Nartiin Chuluu Nature reserve this past July. He and another ram had come down to a spring to drink, then they headed up the side of the valley and, as happens very often, this one stopped at the top and stood against the sky long enough for me to shoot close to two dozen photos.